33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 1130, Chicago, IL 60602

5 Convenient Locations

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Youtube


call us312-999-0999fax312-999-8999

Social Security's Failure to Address the “Combined Effects” of an Applicant's Disability

Posted on in Social Security Disability

applicant disability, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, disability benefits, disability benefits claims, disability applicantsSocial Security often denies disability benefits claims because it fails to properly assess the “combined effects” of an individual's mental and physical impairments. In other words, while a specific impairment—say back pain or diabetes—may not by itself prevent you from working, taking into account how all of your impairments affect your daily life means you can still qualify for disability.

Social Security Ignores Evidence of Applicant's Back Pain, Other Ailments

Of course, Social Security officials often try to do just the reverse: isolate and attempt to minimize the effects of a single impairment without looking at the larger picture. This is not how the law works. But unfortunately, it often takes a federal judge to remind Social Security of this.

Consider this recent disability case in Illinois. The plaintiff in this case first applied for disability benefits more than four years ago. Although Social Security granted a later application, the plaintiff still appealed the initial denial. The reason for this was the second application only found him disabled as of 2016, whereas the first application alleged disability beginning in 2013.

In any event, during the initial case, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected the plaintiff was disabled as the result of his long history of back problems, which included degenerative disc disease and a compression fracture deformity. The plaintiff said these problems “in combination with other impairments,” including obesity and a traumatic brain injury, justified a disability award.

On appeal, a federal judge agreed with the plaintiff that the ALJ did not do his job. In fact, the judge said the ALJ basically dismissed the plaintiff's back pain with a one-sentence statement that his degenerative disc disease was “mild and stable.” More to the point, the ALJ never discussed any of the other medical introduced by the plaintiff and “erred in failing to consider the combined effects of all of plaintiff's impairments.”

The judge said the ALJ also failed to consider the plaintiff's age. He was 57 years old when the ALJ rejected his first application. Under Social Security regulations, an applicant over the age of 55 is “deemed to be disabled even if he were able to do the full range of light work.” Here, the ALJ found the plaintiff could perform “medium work,” but again, the judge said that finding was undercut by the “failure to consider the evidence regarding plaintiff's back condition.” Accordingly, the plaintiff was entitled to a new Social Security hearing.

Do Not Let Social Security Violate Your Rights

It is a recurring problem for disability applicants in Illinois: Social Security officials taking shortcuts, ignoring medical evidence, and cherry picking facts to fit a predetermined outcome. You do not have to stand for this. A qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer can help fight for your rights before Social Security and the courts. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 if you need to speak with an attorney today.


Mollet v. Berryhill , U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Oct. 11, 2017.

You are not alone. Call now for a FREE consultation 312-999-0999

Unable to travel to my office? No problem! No office visit required.

dupage county bar association Chicago abr association nosscr Super Lawyer
Back to Top